Second Division championship: 1983/84
John Neal’s Chelsea side earned promotion back to the First Division after winning Division Two in 1983/84 on goal difference ahead of Sheffield Wednesday.
Having finished in the bottom half of the table the previous season, Neal oversaw a reshaping of the side which yielded wonderful results.
The team was significantly strengthened with the recruitment of goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki, defender Joe McLaughlin, midfielder Nigel Spackman, winger Pat Nevin and striker Kerry Dixon.
Spackman and Dixon were on target in an opening-day 5-0 win at home to Derby, and a week later the forward netted another brace in a 2-1 victory away at Brighton. By the end of November we’d tasted defeat just once, away at Sheffield Wednesday.
Dixon, Nevin and David Speedie were proving a real threat going forward, while the likes of Paul Canoville and John Bumstead were also chipping in with their fair share of goals.
In January, Neal made the decision to deploy Colin Lee at right-back, at the expense of John Hollins, for the trip to Derby, and it was a decision which paid dividends as we ran out 2-1 winners. A week later, in front of over 35,000 fans at the Bridge, Micky Thomas scored a brace in a crucial 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday.
Nevin went from strength to strength as the season edged towards its conclusion, with the Scot scoring five times in six matches – including the only goal of the game at Crystal Palace – during March and April.
We had the chance to seal promotion away at Portsmouth in a midweek encounter, but after going 2-0 up we were forced to settle for a point. Four days’ later, however, we weren’t to be denied as Kerry Dixon scored the perfect hat-trick – left foot, right foot, header – in a 5-0 demolition of Leeds.
Sheffield Wednesday remained clear favourites to take the title, boasting a five-point lead with three matches left to play, but after they picked up one point from two matches, and we took maximum points from games against Manchester City and Barnsley, it was the Blues in the ascendancy going into the final game, away at Grimsby.
More than 10,000 Chelsea fans headed north, and not for the first time it was the Nevin-Dixon combination that proved decisive, with the winger’s cross headed home by the striker to seal victory. Sheffield Wednesday also won, but our superior goal difference saw the Blues crowned champions.